By MARTHA TOWNS
This story is for all of you who often travel S. Woodland Rd. in Shaker Heights and kept watch on an amazing restoration project most of last year.
At times it looked as if the entire house might disappear to say nothing of the yard, which was covered for months with trucks, dumpsters and dirt. Today it stands proudly on top of its little hill, a warm and inviting home for its young family, Christine and Michael Peters and their two tiny girls. The Peters’ — 40-somethings who moved here from Manhattan, could write a book on how to restore an old house. They didn’t miss a detail.
Having once seen all the way through the house while driving by, I was delighted to be invited inside on an early spring afternoon to see all four floors of impeccable restoration and remodeling. Where original details could be kept, they were. Where change was needed, it was made thoughtfully and with great care. For instance, the kitchen was once three small rooms. Now it is sleek and so well thought out that it has details that delight: a refrigerator with a glass door; a smaller refrigerator under the long island where everyday needs, such as milk, are kept. The microwave is under another counter which makes all kinds of sense. “We knew exactly what was going into every cupboard,” said Christine. The one-time butler’s pantry is a dream for entertaining with an icemaker, wine cooler and cupboards full of crystal.
In the living room, now dubbed the “event space,” the couple was able to restore the beautiful crown molding from its original molds. The parquet flooring may or may not be original to the house but it has been framed to flow seamlessly into the foyer, which needed complete replacing.
Naturally, there were a few surprises. Parts of the foundation had to be completely restored and the new sewer line which Michael had thought would go across the front yard, was dug at the rear of the house, “a trench l8 feet deep and 300 feet long,” he said wryly. He handled the rather steep driveway, which could be a winter nightmare, by laying the heating cables himself, working right up to the minute the cement truck arrived. One of Christine’s accomplishments was to remove the paint from a white fountain in the sunroom, revealing its original beauty.
Not only was Michael his own contractor for the reconstruction of the 1931 Shaker classic but, after many years in the banking business, he is now managing director of his own firm, Coventry Land, and is an accredited green roof professional as well as having become a certified builder. Christine, also a banking veteran, is working part time for a human resources firm. They are both able to work at home.
For a year after they were married, Christine and Michael took a year off to travel the world, visiting 24 countries. A nearly seven-foot-square acquisition from Australia now hangs in their living room, a magnificent painting by Aboriginal artist, Jeannie Petyarre. Christine was able to find a much smaller version of the same painting online which she is saving for her oldest daughter.
There’s very little furniture in the room and it may stay that way for a while since it has proven to be great for entertaining: 40 people at four, eight-foot tables for a family dinner and a birthday party for 15 little children and their parents.
The whole house has been carefully and lovingly detailed. Here is a couple that knew exactly what they wanted and they surely got it. Walls disappeared, doorways were capped to match existing shelves and the beautiful molding in the living room was re-created using molds of the original work. Leadwork that was removed from some windows turned up in other windows. An old claw-foot tub was removed from the third floor, repainted and looks absolutely spiffy in another bathroom. Christine found a wonderful old dresser that now holds double sinks.
The basement boasts a walk-in shower big enough to hold muddy children or dogs (there’s no dog yet) or anything else that needs cleaned up. It’s Michael’s “wet room.” The second and third floors have been beautifully finished for comfortable living for family and friends. “We can sleep a lot of people,” said Michael “and we want to; we love to have company.” The third floor will be a teenager’s haven one day.
Complete strangers walked through the front door while Christine and Michael were inside working, wanting to see what was going on. Now you know.